Watchdog Report-Craven County Board of Commissioners Meeting 7 July 14

Watchdog Report

Craven County Board of Commissioner’s Meeting-7 July 2014

CCTA sure got its message across last night at the Craven County Board of Commissioners meeting! A large contingent of CCTA members made up most of the audience. I’m not sure I know all of them, but I did recognize at least 17 members.

The Commissioners were very courteous and listened intently to what we had to say. Board Chairman, Tom Mark, even promised a response from the Board! Several Board members expressed interest in hearing more, especially from Kim Fink on Common Core.

Brad Cummings, Kim and Glenn Fink, Ray Griffin, Nan Murdoch, Raynor and I were each given four minutes to speak. The meeting was broadcast on TV, but I understand that the sound quality was poor. Our overall message was that the Craven County school system (Board of Education and administration) are unresponsive to the concerns of citizens, be it about federal over-reach, Common Core, the school budget, curriculum, prayer in school, or just about anything.

Ray Griffin related that he had been told point blank that his views on school prayer and putting God back in the schools were unwelcome at Board of Education meetings.

Nan told about how little students know about the founding of our country, its history, and the meaning of the 4th of July celebration. It was heart breaking.

Kim Fink explained what is so wrong about Common Core and the rude way the school board reacted to her concerns about it, even calling her a “racist.” As usual, Kim packed a lot of information into a short talk.

Glenn enumerated several questions he had posed to the Board of Education that certainly deserve a response from them, but he has gotten none.

Raynor got right to the heart of the matter, even though, as usual, she had to be asked to speak up. She said that school board members, who are elected to represent all county citizens including parents and taxpayers, just aren’t responsive to citizens’ concerns, but react to their concerns with hostility and criticism. They give lip service to the idea of “critical thinking,” but insist on “consensus” and “group think” by Board of Education members. Individual, contrarian ideas are not tolerated well.

Brad pointed out that David Clifton, who recently resigned as School Board Finance Officer, had told me (which I reported in a watchdog report) that the strings and requirements attached to federal dollars given to the school system, not only gave the federal government too much control over the school system, but actually cost so much to comply with that the County would be better off without it!   David Clifton also said that he could be quoted to that effect to anyone and everyone. Brad asked the Commissioners to consider the merit of that approach to reducing federal intrusion into Craven County schools and the associated top-heavy administrative costs – money that might be better spent on classroom teachers if it is spent at all.

I followed up with the fact that the school board keeps at least three sets of financial books, one for the federal government, one for the state, and one for the county. AND THEY NEVER ADDRESS THE WHOLE FINANCIAL PICTURE TO ANYONE! That way they can just try to justify each specific budget request without presenting the whole picture. For example, they requested $60,000 to repair a school roof, and they spent the money for some other purpose, and then asked for the $60,000 dollars again the next year. That shenanigan was done in spite of the fact that they keep a hefty reserve.

The Board of Education has even defied the Board of Commissioner’s request for information concerning students’ reading ability by the end of the third grade.

The simple fact is that the only hold anyone seems to have on our school system is that the Board of Education has to ask the Board of Commissioners for county taxpayer contributions to their building and facilities support for their programs (I say programs because they are not so much educating as indoctrinating the students). I asked the Board of Commissioners to use that power to force the Board of Education to be more responsive to citizens and their elected representatives.

At the end of the meeting, County Manager, Jack Veit, announced that a joint meeting of the Board of Commissioners and the School Board is planned to follow the 18 August Board of Commissioners’ meeting. That sounds like fun. I hope a lot of us can make it. It, of course, is a morning meeting that starts at 8:30 AM.

In other business, there was a public hearing on the “Hazard Mitigation Plan.” A consultant presented a slide show presenting the plan as mostly about emergency response, glossing over the fact that it is actually a huge intrusion of the federal government in moving, raising, and replacing homes for people who have experienced repeated flooding problems. All this construction work is at taxpayers’ expense! I showed the Board a map that county planners had prepared for me that show that the preponderance of this unconstitutional activity on the part of the federal government benefits a small group of favored citizens located in two small areas of Craven County; it does not benefit the general county population. The plan also includes FEMA flood maps that can make government provided flood insurance cost prohibitive. (Assumptions of sea level rise can exacerbate this problem drastically.) I spoke on behalf of CCTA and pointed these things out. Of course, as the consultant pointed out, the Board had little choice but to approve the plan, or FEMA would not bestow its wonderful benefits on Craven County citizens. That would be disastrous, especially in an election year. Commissioner Dacey did ask them to make information available to citizens in time for the public hearings (which had not been done in this case).

There were two very positive notes to the meeting other than CCTA’s participation. There was a public hearing on the sale of the County’s home hospice business. I spoke in favor of the sale on behalf of CCTA. I did ask what had happened to the $2 Million dollar estimate that was originally made by a consultant on the estimated value of the business that the county now seems poised to sell for $850,000 (is that gross or net?). I got no response on that except a nod from Commissioner Dacey at the question. However, it is very good that free enterprise will now handle this service.

The other really good thing was that Commissioner Dacey stated that agencies and organizations that ask for taxpayer support of the Commission should make their financial records available to the public so we could see how the money is being spent. He got a smattering of applause at that remark, even though applause is frowned on at the meetings except when giving out awards and the like. I didn’t clap, although I wanted to. I go to enough of their meetings to know the rules – even the rules that badly need to be changed.

One other item of interest, during the public petitions, a librarian from the Havelock library asked for $43,000 for their library, and gave a heart wrenching story about how it was so needed to continue their work with the children. Commissioner McCabe made a motion that her request be granted even though no request had been made during the budget process. Commissioner Allen pointed out that the requester had failed to point out that the Havelock Board of Commissioners had withdrawn their funding for the library, and that was why the late request to the County Board. At that news, the County Commissioners decided to table the matter in order to gather more information and evaluate it. It was also pointed out that if the County funded one municipality’s library, they would next be asked to fund them all.

Respectfully Submitted,

Hal James

CCTA Watchdog Chairman

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